Jabril Faraj

Brostoff Arrest Raises Questions

State rep says police focus must change; Police say Ald. Rainey asked them to be there.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Sep 2nd, 2016 10:25 am
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More than 40 officers and six police vehicles filled the intersection of Sherman Boulevard and W. Auer Avenue after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Photo by Jabril Faraj.

More than 40 officers and six police vehicles filled the intersection of Sherman Boulevard and W. Auer Avenue after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Photo by Jabril Faraj.

State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff and Jarrett English, a youth organizer and police accountability associate at the ACLU of Wisconsin, were arrested and briefly detained by the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) in Sherman Park Tuesday night.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. Neither did Jarrett,” said Brostoff, who was forced to the ground and handcuffed with zip ties by MPD officers “even though I said I was being totally compliant.”

Earlier, officers dispersed a group that had gathered at a memorial for Sylville K. Smith, who was killed by an MPD officer Aug. 13. Eleven individuals were arrested for charges including disorderly conduct and resisting an officer after police said they would not leave the area. Community organizers Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh and Vaun Mayes were among those arrested; Sensabaugh and Mayes were both released Wednesday morning.

Police did not give a reason for the arrests of Brostoff and English. Eventually, both were released after MPD Inspector Stephen Basting spoke with State Rep. David Bowen, who was also at the scene.

In an email, MPD Sgt. Timothy Gauerke said, “Milwaukee Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding these arrests to ensure proper procedures were followed.”

“If I had a different job they would’ve taken me in,” Brostoff said, adding that MPD wanted to detain English but that Brostoff made it clear he would not leave without him. “Just because he has a different job than me doesn’t mean he should be arrested — he didn’t do anything wrong.”

Milwaukee police patrol a memorial for Sylville K. Smith, who was shot by an MPD officer more than two weeks ago. Photo by Jabril Faraj.

Milwaukee police patrol a memorial for Sylville K. Smith, who was shot by an MPD officer more than two weeks ago. Photo by Jabril Faraj.

Brostoff, who was in the area to speak with residents, take policy recommendations and help de-escalate a tense situation, said “the focus should not be me.” He said this incident should be used as an opportunity to address “the systemic issues that are leading to all of this,” including racial disparities in education and economic opportunity, which have resulted in high rates of black male unemployment and incarceration in Milwaukee.

English, who is black, called the experience “confusing,” “embarrassing” and “dehumanizing,” but said he wasn’t worried because he knew people were making calls on his behalf. “I think about the 15-year-old kids, 13-year-old kids who don’t have nobody to call … and just how intimidating and how terrifying that must be,” he said. “And we know that that happens a lot in Milwaukee.”

“This is not happening in a vacuum,” Brostoff said. “There’s a larger set of circumstances that should be a constant focus until they’re fixed.”

Tensions

Since Smith’s death, people have consistently gathered at a memorial erected for him on the south side of W. Auer Avenue. Gauerke said police have received complaints from residents about disorderly groups gathering into the late night.

About 9:30 p.m. more than 40 officers had blocked off W. Auer Avenue; Sherman Boulevard was blocked off at W. Burleigh Street and on the north end by police vehicles, as well. At least 20 officers and five police vehicles patrolled the corner of Auer and N. 44th Street as late as 10:45 p.m.

“We got direction from the alderman (Khalif Rainey) that the neighbors have had enough,” said Basting. “This has been going on for about two weeks — the memorial, the dope smoking, the loud music, the garbage … on the neighbors’ porches, taking over the intersection.”

Basting added, “I’ve got to tell you: I couldn’t live there.”

Barry Givens, 67, who lives on the corner of Sherman Boulevard and Auer Avenue, said both residents and those visiting the memorial have rights. “I can understand the family [is] grieving, but at some point you’ve got to consider the residents in the area,” he said.”

Givens said he was not aware that any residents had made complaints, and said he did not call police. Rainey did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Some residents said they understand that there needs to be peace and that officers are probably afraid for their safety, but that the response of law enforcement can be “over-reactive” and provocative, nonetheless. Givens said he was glad the situation did not escalate.

Basting said MPD would not take the memorial down but that police would “keep a presence in the neighborhood, and hope we get compliance.” “It’s … this group of kids; it’s their decision what happens next,” he said.

“We know they’ve got a hard job,” English said, referring to police. “But it can’t keep going like this. There’s no way that any of that — more cops, more riot gear and all of that — ain’t none of that going to solve any of this, period. And, if they keep going down this route, it’s just going to get worse.”

English said the recently released preliminary public safety plan that calls for 280 police officers to be hired is, “a disaster before it even begins.”

Brostoff said it’s important to “seriously re-focus our efforts from punitive to preventative.” He called for the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention to receive an “appropriate level of funding.”

“That’s the whole idea of prevention,” Brostoff said. “By the time it happens it’s already too late.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

6 thoughts on “Brostoff Arrest Raises Questions”

  1. Casey says:

    Brostoff is shaping up to be quite the attention whore politician. I can’t believe I used to like him. He does not represent that community.

  2. Milwaukee Native says:

    Casey, by “that community” do you mean the specific district? Or do you mean black people? Do you think it’s OK for David Bowen to be in Sherman Park, even though it’s not his state district?

    Plenty of people, black and white, including Jonathan Brostoff and other progressive legislators have been trying for a long time to address chronic problems in “that community” and throughout the city. Should everyone who does not represent the needier parts of our community just continue to let them languish with no hope of real change?

  3. Jmcb says:

    I think Brostoff’s presence at the community gathering raises unsettling questions. Much as I like the guy, it bothers me that he chose to go there in the first place. How on earth did he think he could help “de-escalate” the situation? Could he not come up with his own creative legislation without going into the highly charged area? Why did he announce to the cops that he was an elected official? Was he using his privileged status to get out of an arrest? I think it was an arrogant move on his part. I totally support his intentions but I think he needs to find other ways of drawing attention to the systemic issues of racism in our inner city. By drawing attention to himself, he made it look like a politically motivated grandstanding. BTW, why did the police let him and Jarrett go? What’s up with that?

  4. happyjack27 says:

    ” BTW, why did the police let him and Jarrett go? What’s up with that?”

    Because they had no grounds to detain them.

    ” Was he using his privileged status to get out of an arrest?”

    No. The police were wrong to arrest, quite irrespective of his occupation. He lamented – and I believe it’s in the article – precisely that point: that his occupation should not have afforded him special treatment, that everyone should be treated with more dignity and respect than he was.

    “Why did he announce to the cops that he was an elected official?”

    He didn’t. Why should that matter? Being or not being an elected official grants you no special privileges here.

    “Could he not come up with his own creative legislation ”

    Not in this legislature. It is entirely corrupt because Republican voters keep voting the corrupt politicians back in. There needs to be a lot more political pressure before any legislation can gain any traction, and even then its quite doubtful without a Democratic majority, which isn’t going to happen under the extreme partisan gerrymander the GOP did last cycle.

    “By drawing attention to himself, he made it look like a politically motivated grandstanding.”

    By drawing attention t himself by getting arrested? You really think he wanted to get arrested?

    Brostoff did not try to get arrested. I don’t know how you got that impression. He did everything possible to avoid it. Was polite, respectful, did everything asked. etc.

    He didn’t draw attention to himself. The police drew attention to themselves.

  5. happyjack27 says:

    By the way, Brostoff is a very effective de-escalator. I’m glad he was there to help keep things under control.

  6. Milwaukee Native says:

    Brostoff was with Jarrett English, an ACLU organizer whose job is to help young people to keep from becoming involved in the criminal-justice system and thus ruin their lives, possibly forever. Trying to keep more unrest from erupting seems to be in his job description, but he could also kick back, watch TV, and say, after hours, “It’s not my problem.” So could the elected officials who have tried to decrease tensions. They won’t get “overtime” for their efforts.

    Jonathan Brostoff is friends with English and was with him when both were arrested. If people can get arrested for taking video with their cell phones, we’re all in more danger than we think.

    Reggie Moore, and long-time community organizer who’s now the City’s director of Anti-Violence Programs has also been spending evenings in Sherman Park. I am grateful for all of these people who care enough about our city and its people to go beyond the call of duty.

    http://shepherdexpress.com/article-28325-office-of-violence-prevention-director-reggie-moore-on-the-sherman-park-uprising.html

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